How to break sugar addiction?

sugar addiction

Today sugar is found naturally in many foods and is almost impossible to avoid. Sugary foods and drinks cause dependence, also known as sugar addiction. Individuals crave sugar, as it releases endorphins, which boost energy with other body chemicals. Recent studies published by PLoS claim that sugar is as addictive as drugs like cocaine and heroin.

How does sugar affect the brain?

Individuals, who are struggling with anxiety and depression, consider sweets as a crutch. That’s because sugar intake stimulates the brain to produce a high level of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that conveys the feeling of pleasure and happiness. The more sugar we eat, the higher level of dopamine is produced, reinforcing certain feelings and behaviors. Over time, to get the same pleasurable feelings, you have to eat more and more sugar. In fact, eating lots of sugar stimulates repeated activation of the reward system pathway, tricking the brain into believing that sugar is vital for basic survival. Also, the brain loses the ability to produce dopamine without sugar intake. That causes the brain to adapt to frequent stimulation, leading to tolerance or craving.

Harvard Medical School informs that all sugar forms profoundly affect the brain and cause a group of diseases in which high blood glucose levels persist over a prolonged period. As sugary foods have an addictive nature, long-term health effects like obesity and diabetes are caused by exceeded sugar intake. Furthermore, long-term excessive consumption of added sugar harms the entire body as well. Overeating sugar may result in the following:

Individuals planning to cut back on sugar in their diet may experience some uncomfortable side effects known as sugar withdrawal symptoms.

How long do sugar withdrawal symptoms last?

While curbing sugar cravings, individuals might experience sugar withdrawal symptoms, both mental and physical. They vary from person to person and may last a few days or weeks. The symptoms are mild and temporary and should fade without treatment after the body adapts to lower sugar consumption. Let’s explore some symptoms of sugar withdrawal:

  • anxiety and irritability
  • fatigue and lack of concentration
  • dizziness
  • depression
  • intense sugar cravings
  • nausea

Such sugar cravings may result in binge-eating behaviors, part of a vicious cycle of sugar addiction and withdrawal. There are some steps individuals can take to cope with sugar withdrawal symptoms. First of all, it is necessary to regulate blood sugar by eating more healthy and fiber-rich food. It will help to minimize withdrawal symptoms, decrease cravings and avoid drops in blood sugar. Also, follow below lifestyle tips:

  • eat protein to control appetite and reduce cravings;
  • drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration;
  • exercise regularly as it stimulates endorphins release and regulates blood sugar levels;
  • take magnesium supplements (speak with a healthcare provider before taking any supplement).

Individuals can minimize sugar withdrawal by choosing fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins, fiber, minerals, and naturally occurring sugar. Curb a sweet habit is an excellent idea, as it helps to improve overall health and reduce the risk of numerous conditions. Old habits are hard to break, especially when you try to quit cold turkey. That’s why starting with small changes in eating behaviors is better.

Tips on how to break sugar addiction safely?

Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary and preferred fuel for the brain and every cell in the body. The brain depends on sugar as it’s the most energy-demanding organ that uses one-half of all the sugar energy, said Vera Novak, MD, Ph.D., an HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Although the brain requires glucose, too much of it harms health.

The American Heart Association states that an average American consumes 85g (20 teaspoons) of added sugar per day, which should be limited to a maximum of 10% of daily calories. It is about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men.

When cutting back on sugar in the diet, it is essential to do it gradually. Giving up the most apparent sugar sources, such as sugary drinks, candies, baked foods, etc., is an excellent place to start.

The next step is to include protein and fiber-rich food like fish, meat, eggs, avocado, nuts, etc. It will help you to reduce hunger and promote fullness for the whole day. According to the National Institute of Health, higher protein meal intake allows better appetite control and satiety. The study shows that increasing protein in the diet by 25% reduced cravings by 60%.

Once you strongly wish to add a touch of sweetness to your favorite food or drink, make sure to use healthy and natural sugar alternatives. People have a wide range to choose from. Meanwhile, some of them contain very few or zero calories.

Natural sweeteners that are good for your health

Replacing refined sugar with some of the sweeteners on this list may help to cut back intake. Still, instead of focusing on one ingredient, like sugar, you should pay more attention to the diet as a whole.


It’s a plant-based sweetener with zero calories, while its compounds, stevioside, and rebaudioside, are up to 450 times sweeter than sugar. Many studies said that replacing sugar with stevia may help to achieve weight loss and reduce blood sugar levels.


It’s a monosaccharide that exists naturally in certain fruits. While having just 0.2 calories per gram, it provides a taste close to regular sugar. Also, some studies suggest that D-allulose may reduce blood sugar and insulin in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients. However, ensure not to exceed the maximum daily dose of 0.4 grams per pound (0.9 grams per kg) to prevent symptoms like bloating or diarrhea.

Fruit purees

All fruits are linked to various health benefits and are high in vitamins B6 and C, magnesium, folate, etc.


Unlike refined sugar, dates or dried fruits are rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and polyphenol antioxidants. They are high in natural sugar but don’t significantly affect blood sugar levels, even among people with diabetes.

Sugar alcohols (polyols)

It’s a type of carbohydrate naturally found in fruits and vegetables. They have fewer calories and don’t significantly affect blood sugar levels, so even people with diabetes can consume them.

Cutting back on sugar is a long and slow process. Make sure to reduce sugar intake gradually to stay on track while the body adjusts to a low-sugar diet. There is no need to avoid sugars naturally found in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. They are rich in vitamins and contain nutrients and fiber, which benefit our health.

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